SALT LAKE CITY — First responders from Utah have traveled to California to assist in battling wildfires.
One crew from the Lone Peak Fire District in Utah County arrived on the scene of the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County on Sunday.
“Every time we come to California, I am amazed at the destruction these wildfires cause,” said Chris Willden of the Lone Peak Fire District when reached by Skype. “I plan on coming here at least twice per year.”
Willden is no stranger to fighting fires in the Golden State. Last year, he was on the same task force as Draper Battalion Chief Matt Burchett, who died while fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018.
“Not coming home with one member of your crew, that was the worst,” Willden said.
That tragedy will forever follow those who were close to Burchett. The painful memories stay with Willden on the front lines.
“There were a lot of standing dead trees, some were burning on the inside. The fact that Matt was killed by a tree that came down, it is always in the back of our heads,” Willden said.
Despite the dangers that come with the job, Willden and all the firefighters put themselves in harm’s way because it is the job they are called to do.
“You want to help people because they are at their worst moment,” Willden said. “When we are driving around, coming off the fire line, many people will get out of their cars, wave to us, honk and wave, thank us when we are in the stores. It’s pretty overwhelming.”
The Lone Peak Fire crew is one of several from Utah battling fires in California. They are expected to be out there for 14 days, but their stay could be extended if needed.